Is Dating Different for Millennial Women?

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Some say that dating is oh-so-different for millennials than for other women. Is this true?

Actually, yes and no. The answer depends largely on how a millennial decides to approach dating.

If you’re now in your twenties to mid-thirties, you’re a millennial. You may approach romantic love differently from people who are older. Millennials rely heavily on technology. The endless array of options in dating apps and choices can make it difficult for many to commit to a relationship. It becomes especially challenging to balance the desire for independence with commitment needs.

Communication mishaps abound for millennials because text messages have largely replaced phone calls. We may think that the words we use determine the bulk of the message people receive. However, studies by Albert Mehrabian, PhD, and colleagues confirm the truth of the familiar saying “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it,” when communication in a relationship. They found that while body language and facial expression account for 55% of the total message received, only 7% of it is based on the words used. Voice tone, which expresses 38% of the meaning, is present in phone conversations and missing from texts.

What’s more, technology can dehumanize us. It easily removes the constraints that usually exist in ordinary interactions where there is a shared respect for each other’s humanity. When communication is largely online and therefore more superficial, it becomes easier to “ghost” someone rather than have a respectful conversation to end an online relationship.

Getting ghosted has become a common experience. It can be hurtful for someone who was invested in what she thought was a real relationship. The person who ghosts an online relationship partner may find it easy to do this via the internet because of the emotional distance that technology can foster. When he ends an online relationship, he may well be unaware that he’s dealing with a real human being who deserves a kinder sort of good-bye.

Millennials tend to go with the crowd. Yet it’s important to recognize the temptation to do what others are doing, and to say no to what doesn’t feel okay to you. It’s best to meet and date in a way that fits your unique self.

Although online dating has become enormously popular, keep in mind that wonderful marriages also occur when people first meet in person at an event, or through a friend or matchmaking professional. Millennials in college or graduate school have an especially easy time meeting new people. Many spouses in successful marriages met as students.

Avoiding Online Dating Hazards

Although disappointments occur in online dating, this can happen regardless of how people meet, especially if their happily-ever-after fantasies soar before they really know someone. While online dating does have some special challenges, it can also be highly rewarding. About one third of recent marriages began with an online introduction.

Here are a few suggestions for a positive online dating experience:

  • Before meeting in person, get references to make sure the person has portrayed himself honestly. Is he really single? Did he state his age truthfully?
  • Do not prolong an online relationship beyond when you’re ready to speak by phone or meet in person.
  • If the person will communicate only online (texting, sending emails, etc.) well past the time you are ready to talk on the phone or meet in person, this a virtual relationship. Say goodbye and find a real one.   

Dating Advice for Marriage-Minded Millennials

“Dating used to be more respectful,” says Gina, a 33-year-old married bank executive. “These days people get involved too quickly,” she adds. “They become a couple before they really know each other and it doesn’t last because they’ve rushed into things too soon and then they end up breaking up. Gina advises millennials to take time to really get to know each other and how they behave over time. Learn about their interests. Get to know their family. If you’ve gotten to know his fine points and you want to stay with him, you will stay in the relationship even as you go through the ups and downs.”

Gina got to know her husband well, and his family too, before marrying eight years ago. She exudes a calm happiness when she talks about her marriage and her two young children.

Gina’s advice is sound. She agrees that dating for a marriage-minded millennial is pretty much like dating for marriage-minded women of other generations. It makes sense to notice whether someone you date has the traits you need in a husband. If you think a relationship is becoming serious, clarify whether he wants an exclusive relationship with you or whether he’s still keeping his options open. Maintain your objectivity by investing no more of yourself in a relationship than the person you’re dating is investing.   

Texting is fine for confirming an appointment time or other facts. Hold emotionally charged conversations the traditional way, in-person or on the phone.

Francie’s Take on Millennial Men

Francie, single and in her late twenties, echoes Gina’s view that dating is less respectful than it used to be. “Men want to meet you for coffee or a drink. If they want another date, again they want to meet you for coffee or at a bar.” They don’t want to go for dinner; it’s too expensive because they go out with so many women.

Francie’s experience is probably a common one. Yet if a woman is clearly ready for marriage, not ambivalent, she’ll attract marriage-minded men who will want to get to know her as a person rather than as one in a long parade of women he brings into and out of his life in rapid succession.

Sincerity attracts sincerity. If you are comfortable with yourself and confident that you are on a path toward marriage, you will attract men with a similar mindset. The “players” will go elsewhere on their own, or you’ll send them on their merry way.